With ever increasing global competition, companies and businesses are now looking for new ways to cut cost. Companies and businesses have now targeted the health sector as being one of the largest in the company’s operations. The average cost per smoker is approximately $1623 in excess medical expenses and $1760 in lost productivity according to the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or at least $96 billion in direct medical expenditures and $97 billion in lost productivity every year12. Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids decided to become smoke free and announced that they will dismiss workers if they don’t go smoke free at the end of 2006. Spectrum reasons were a) Tobacco addiction kills five million people worldwide each year, including more than 400,000 Americans b) Health care costs are 2.65 billion annually. c) Smoking employees have six and a half more days absent per year than non-smokers. d) Second hand smoke is responsible for 3000 lung cancer deaths each year. An increasing number of companies ban smoking in the workplace. Companies like Union Pacific; Omaha Nebraska banned smoking in the workplace and won’t hire smokers. Lowe’s home improvement retail chain doesn’t allow smoking on its campuses or on its store properties including parking lots. Alaska Airlines requires a nicotine test before hiring people. Kalamazoo Community College stopped hiring smokers for full time position in Michigan. Weyco, Okemos, Michigan decided to become a non-smoking employer. Weyco fired four (4) employees because they refused to stop smoking even off company premises at their homes. Weyco instituted a policy in 2003 of no longer hiring smokers and offering smoking cessation program to the current employees who smoked. The four employees refused to take a “nicotine test” and were fired. Further, a study of 2500 postal employees found that the absentee rate for smokers was 33 percent higher than for non-smokers (Working Smoke Free.com) Smokers are absent from work 50 percent more than non-smokers. They are 50 percent more likely to be hospitalized and have 15 percent higher disability rates. Smokers miss more work than non-smokers due to sickness. Smoking causes a weak immune system because of the carcinogen found in the cigarettes. Therefore, smokers use more sick days due to their weak immune system4. A large U.S Airline found that smokers are absent from work as many as 6.16 days per year on average compared with 3.86 days for non-smokers. Employees who smoke are prone to being less productive. Employees who take four ten-minute (4x10) smoking breaks a day actually work one month less per year than workers who don’t smoke (Working Smoke Free.com). The American Lung Association1 concluded that smoking attributed health-care expenditure amounted to $75.5billion in 1998. The WSJ8,10,18 (Wall Street Journal) reports that even WHO (World Health Organization) banned the hiring of smokers to promote its public health campaign against tobacco use. The authors point out in the paper that smokers are more absent, more prone to sickness, disability and are less productive compared to non-smokers.
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